It’s 1582 and eighteen-year-old Will Lacey’s family is in trouble. After years of wasteful spending, his late father has run Lacey Hall to near ruin. Tasked with marrying his family back into fortune, the new Earl of Dorset is all set for a season at court to woo not just the Queen but potential brides with his jousting skills. But when Ellie – a strong-willed girl with nothing to her name but a worthless Spanish title – catches Will’s eye, he faces a bigger battle than he could ever have anticipated. (From Goodreads.com)
Quite a few years ago, I remember a magazine series that became a bit of a fad at my school. I’m fairly certain, if my hazy memory serves me correctly, that it was called Discovery and each issue would cover a particular period in history. I remember relatively little about the series now (other than my mother being quite annoyed at my loss of interest shortly after signing up for a subscription). However I do remember the very first issue, devoted to Queen Elizabeth I. Reading The Other Countess by Eve Edwards reminded me how much I’d adored this magazine and made me wonder why in the years since I hadn’t read more about this period in history.
The Other Countess tells the story of Lady Eleanor Rodriguez of San Jaime, or Ellie. With a worthless title inherited from her deceased Spanish mother and a scholarly alchemist father whose obsession with discovering how to make gold has left them penniless, her position at Queen Elizabeth’s court is lowly and often resented. When the handsome Will Lacey, Earl of Dorset, arrives desperate to find a wife with a large dowry to save his own families dire finances the pair are instantly attracted to one another. But little does Will know, Ellie is the daughter of the man responsible for his own father’s demise and the focus of Will’s hatred.
This is an absolutely gorgeous book… I loved it! Packed full of romance, history and the most sumptuous descriptions of the rituals and fashions of the Elizabethan Tudor court, it’s a book you can fully sink into and immerse yourself with. The Other Countess isn’t the most action packed or gritty book you’ll ever come across, in fact it’s quite sedate at times. However Eve Edward’s rich and evocative writing completely draws you in and I found myself lost within the pages, flying through them surprisingly quickly.
The biggest triumphs in Edward’s debut novel however are the strong characters. Despite being set in a time when the most expected of a woman is a good marriage, Ellie is strong, educated and independent. While fate hasn’t been particularly kind to her and her father’s antics have tarnished her reputation, she remains dignified and true to her principles. She’s intelligent, witty and full of fun, yet loyal in her duty and respectful of her time. The romance between herself and the Earl is fantastic; the chemistry between the two is absolutely electric. However, I loved how the relationship wasn’t rushed. There’s no immediate swooning and weak knees and both struggle against their feelings in the name of duty, it was incredibly realistic and easy to sympathise with both.
Lady Jane Perceval is another strong and admirable female character full of hidden depths, her development being a complete surprise and her friendship with Ellie definitely one of the highlights of the book for me. I’m really excited to see that her story is picked up in Edward’s next book, The Queen’s Lady,due for release in 2011. There’s also Will’s brothers, James and Tobias, whose banter and camaraderie is fun and humorous; Sir Henry Perceval, arrogant and pompous, a real love to hate character and the intriguing scheming maid, Nell, who all weave together to create a delicious and fascinating tale.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s fascinating, romantic, fun, witty and full of character’s to either fall in love with or fully enjoy detesting. With a mix of fictional and real historical figures, the depth of Eve Edward’s research is clear yet her writing is never bogged down with the kind of detail that may have your concentration wandering. The result is that while reading this book you feel as if you really have been transported back in time. The Other Countess is a fantastic debut, sure to thrill fans of historical romance and those new to the genre alike, and I eagerly look forward to more from Edward’s in the future.
Thank you to the publishers for sending me this book for review.